For the past three weeks, my wife and I were living at the BC Children’s Hospital while one of my kids dealt with a serious infection. This, of course, made commuting by bike pretty impractical. Things are better now, and last Wednesday I got back on the bike to ride to work. I was expecting the worst — my commute includes climbing the hill to UBC — but it was pretty good.
I had driven to work a few times over those three weeks, and while in “motorist” mode I felt the same irritation that many motorists feel about cyclists. There was the cyclist riding down Broadway that vehicles were gingerly working their way around, only to have the cyclist ride up along the side of the line of vehicles stopped at stop lights and proceed to ride right through the red light. Everyone had to gingerly try to pass again.
There was the cyclist that was a cyclist until the red light, then became a pedestrian on a bike as she rode across the intersection in the crosswalk, then reaching the far corner, rode across the street against the red light and down the sidewalk.
There was the cyclist who didn’t even look for traffic, never mind stop at the 2-way stop sign. You know what? Cyclists like this ruin the reputation of all cyclists around the city.
It felt so good to get back in the saddle though. Riding is liberating: you go at your pace, you don’t have to deal with traffic congestion, you feel the wind in your hair and the ground beneath your wheels. You appreciate the things around you, and in Vancouver, there’s lots around to appreciate — like the magnolia trees in full bloom. I arrive at work refreshed, not frustrated. Well, not much. In “cyclist” mode, it’s the pedestrians and motorists that are annoying.
Data on cycling habits in Vancouver shows that there’s a large core group of cyclists that cycle year-round, despite the winter rain and darkness. Once the days start getting longer and the days drier, the “fairweather riders” emerge. Judging by the number of bikes now in the bike room at my workplace, this group has started riding again.
While there are some that grumble about them, I welcome these cyclists back to the streets. Just as I felt great returning to riding after a paltry three weeks off, I can just imagine how it feels after 4, 5, or 6 months off. The physical and mental health of city only improves as more people get on their bikes and ride.
So, this is my personal appeal to you: ride your bike more. If you can, ride your bike to work. Choose a nice warm, dry day and just go for it. You might be surprised how much better your day is.
Last modified: April 16, 2012